WPS Helps Wiese Bros. Farm Grow In Efficiency
(Farmnews - January 2012)

WPS Helps Wiese Brothers Farm Grow In Efficiency

Adding a 2,500-cow dairy operation to an already sizable farming enterprise is a tremendous undertaking, with countless decisions to make regarding electricity use and energy efficiency.

Brothers Mark and Dave Wiese began the expansion project in July 2010 at Wiese Brothers Farm, which they own and operate together. By the following March, they began milking 836 cows at the new facility. That number has grown to 2,500 cows milked daily at the new facility, and 1,800 at the older neighboring facility that was built in 1995.

WPS Agricultural Consultant Rob Juneau got involved early in the planning stage of this most recent expansion. His main role was to provide the Wieses with information about grants and bonuses available for installing energy-efficient equipment, and to coordinate those grants.

"The expansion features a cross-ventilation barn, a double-30 milking parlor, a variable-speed drive on the vacuum pump, a milk transfer pump, six-bulb T8 light fixtures and many other energy-efficient items," Juneau said. "With the total amount of grants they received from Focus on Energy, coupled with the Multi-Project Bonus that WPS works with Focus on Energy to offer, the Wiese Farm received $138,265."

Juneau said WPS extended a three-phase line 1,100 feet to serve the farm's 1,600-amp, 277/480-volt service. Wiese Brothers Farm is set up on the utility's Contracted Direct Load Control (CDLC) program, which means WPS controls the farm's generator to take over its power needs during load sheds. In exchange for their participation, the Wieses receive credits on their WPS bill. Juneau said the utility switched the farm's power over to the generator twice in the summer of 2011.

WPS also helped the Wieses get $4,000 toward installation of an equipotential plane in their free-stall barn and milking parlor. If installed properly, an equipotential plane can reduce levels of stray voltage by keeping all surfaces that livestock touch at approximately the same electrical potential. This is done by installing a wire mesh in the floor and bonding it to the stall, water system and grounding system.

"Installation of an equipotential plane is highly recommended," Juneau said. "Especially when new barns and parlors are being planned like in the case of the Wiese Brothers Farm."

Mark Wiese said they take quite a few preventative measures to make sure they're free of stray voltage. "If the technology is out there, we want to take advantage of it," he said.

WPS Helps Wiese Brothers Farm Grow In Efficiency

The Wieses are also concerned about cow comfort and conducted extensive research before building a free-stall barn with cross ventilation. The new barn uses 182 fans.

"The fans change every cubic foot of air every 45 seconds," Wiese explained. "That takes the odor out and the moisture out and increases cow comfort. A cross-ventilation barn also has a smaller footprint, which increases efficiency."

The farming operation has grown tremendously since the 1970s when the Wiese brothers' father bought the farm and first began grain production. They now employ about 45 people and ship seven tanker trucks of milk daily, which falls between 300,000 and 350,000 pounds of milk. But they're not quite finished expanding. Still in the works is a barn to house about 800 calves from 100 to 240 days old, as well as another heifer barn.

"Then we will have closed the loop on the operation," Wiese said. "All our animals will be on site, and efficiency will be at its peak."